Friday, November 16, 2007

The Insurmountable Obstacle

Lately, I have been reading several things that are coming together for me. N. T. Wright’s book, Simply Christian is the topic of a book study at St. Columba’s. Wright reminds us, the history of Israel is marked by leaving and return. Another way of putting it is: Israel vacillates between honoring the covenant with God and compromising it. At some points, even those convinced of their righteousness are not so.

The six rules of serious theological discourse, posted earlier, address this reality. By recognizing no matter how certain an individual is of their correct assessment of a theological point, the individual can be simply wrong. The history of the Church is marked by countless examples of this truth. Indulgences, the Inquisition and various Millennial movements are just a few examples.

Finally, I am reading some Karl Barth, an important theologian of the last century. One point that he makes is: theology is the product of humans, sinners at that. Therefore, theology itself cannot guarantee its veracity, since it is the product of fallible human beings.

This is not license to ignore the task of trying to understand, and say something meaningful about God. It is more of a warning about our propensity to err. The task of human beings is not to grasp God within our self-constructed systems. Ultimately, our task is to stay awake to witness God’s revelation. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are positioned to see what God is revealing.

The Bible is the primary source of that revelation. We find there the ultimate revelation of God in the person of Jesus. For Christians, Jesus is the reconciler of the past, and the provider of the vision for the future. For Christians, Jesus is the culmination of the history of God’s working through Israel. He is also the starting point for the completion of the purpose, God holds for creation. We call this the inauguration of the coming Kingdom.

The Church is to be a community that furthers the coming kingdom. The Church is a community united by the Spirit. It is through the presence of the Spirit, the Church is able to recognize revelation, when it occurs. The Spirit enables us to see. Our challenge is being open to what the Sprit is trying to tell us.

There are enduring theological constants to which the Church adheres. God revealed as Trinity, the teachings of Jesus, The two sacraments Jesus practiced and commanded, the Creeds as sufficient condensations of the faith are just a few. We must also acknowledge that the Kingdom is continuing to unfold, and the Spirit is still working. This would seem to mean that our awareness of God’s revelation will develop and grow. Granted, some theological points appear relatively clear. However, should we assume that God cannot offer us a surprise, from time to time, in this process?

My point is only this: We will not find what we need, by and within ourselves. We look to the animating Spirit of the Church to lead us into truth.


WTM said...

I always enjoy hearing about people reading Karl Barth, and - I must say - you seem to have grasped the key point of his understanding of theology, indeed of the church, very well. Keep up the good work!

Chris+ said...

Many thx. I will.